Some Thoughts on the Changing Church
In the preface to his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer says the reason for writing the book was “called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse.” “Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the spirit.” “…The churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.”
Is there any question that the state of the body of Christ is in a state of disrepair? While we have given much attention to our outward appearance, making a show for the world and avoiding confrontation, we are a people in captivity. The walls are all torn down, the city looted, and all the temple treasures carried off.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy” Ps. 137:1-6.
Some ask, “What are you talking about, we are free, we are not in captivity, this is our home, we have no recollection of anything else?” “If I forget you, O Jerusalem….” The church has been in its current condition for so long that it cannot even conceive what Eph. 3:8-21 means. We read it then leave it. They’re beautiful words only, poetry, and wishful thinking, that’s all. This should force us to question our current condition and our commitment.
Eph. 3:8-21 “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
When the church, as a body, as one, weeps at the thought of what it left behind, what it only has a vague remote memory of through ancient writings; when no conceivable joy (T. V., computers, houses, cars, clothe, box office smash hits, jobs, education, sex, or family or anything) can make it glad, besides a passionate desire to occupy the Kingdom, its “highest joy,” then it will hear from heaven. “Seek ye first the Kingdom….”
If we are to have a correct understanding of the church we must understand that it is in captivity and is in pathetic shape and denial. How can we sing songs of joy? In our congregation sit adulterers, pornographers, greedy and contentious persons, slanderers, unforgiving people, homosexuals, egoist, and worshipers of all kinds of idols. This is a disgusting abomination to the Lord. We are commanded to dis-associate ourselves from these kinds of people.
1 Cor 5:6-6:1 “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old yeast or with the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? God judges outsiders. Remove the evil person from among you. And, if any of you has a dispute against another, how dare you take it to court before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?”
As a shadow, in Ex. 13:1-10 the Israelites are commanded to keep the feast of unleavened bread. Before the Passover feast the Jews were to remove (cast out) all leaven and bread with leaven from their homes; burn it, bury it, or break it up small and cast it to the wind. Verse 7 states just how strict the rule was. Not only were they not to eat leaven, they were not even to look at it; it must not even be seen. They were to search every corner with candles to be sure nothing remained. So, when we remember Jesus, the Passover Lamb, and where He has brought us out from (Egypt/captivity) we should exam ourselves individually and as a body to be sure there is no leaven (sin) hiding in some corner. This shadow of purification of the church body is not taken seriously today, no effort is even attempted.
Should we show the representatives of Babylon (unbelievers) all of our vast treasures? Should we be casting our precious pearls before swine?
2 Kings 20:12-19
“At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses — the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil — his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.”
“Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, ‘What did those men say, and where did they come from?’”
“From a distant land,’ Hezekiah replied. ‘They came from Babylon.’”
“The prophet asked, ‘What did they see in your palace?’”
“They saw everything in my palace,’ Hezekiah said. ‘There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.’”
“Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”
“The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’”
Where is our proclamation of, “I hate what God hates, and love what God loves…?” It’s come to the point that we dare not even dislike such things in our gatherings, less we offend some sensitive pagan. I think Paul may be right, “your meetings do more harm than good” 1 Cor. 11:17. At least there is “peace and security in my lifetime.”
Are not our songs acknowledgement that we are reconciled to our bondage, a concession that we are pleased with our captivity? Is worship and holy songs something we enter into with pagans? NO! We cannot profane God’s holy ordinances by using them to entertain unbelievers “If I forget you O, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill”.
“OH! Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” we remember you, and your divine ordinances, and especially thy King and our God, whose indignation we must bear, because we have sinned against You.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he comes. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, (get the leaven out, Judas was purged from the batch before the Passover meal was taken) and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” 1 Cor 11:23-12:1.
For seventeen hundred years the commercial church has been demanding that God provide us with Kings (pastors, ministers, elders, deacons, etc.) to do the work of the Body and He has given us what we asked for. These managers, leaders, Doctors of theology, educators, and teachers, have all but decapitated the Body of Christ. They have replaced the Head of the Body, who is Christ, with all their choreography, marketing plans, programs, pre-planned worship services, counseling sessions, cell groups, five point sermons, and study groups. “Watch how you build…” 1 Cor 3:10. Even Moses was told to be careful how he built the Tabernacle, a mere shadow of the body of Christ, “according to the pattern” which God himself showed to him on the mount (Ex 25:9; Heb 8:5). It is called “the tabernacle of the congregation,” where God promised to meet with Israel (Ex 29:42).
The message that the living Body of Christ needs to hear will probably not come from the pulpit. The pulpit, unfortunately, has a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. This is not to say that all preachers are evil. It is only to say that the organized church is following a pattern that has been laid down over a very long period of time and is not likely to change. All or most preachers follow their denominational pattern. There paid position and job is to satisfy there congregation who demand more and better non-judgmental services. After all, all the best training in the world isn’t worth anything if you don’t have a job; preachers have to eat too.
The congregation has for the most part given up on the return of Jesus, since He has delayed His coming and preachers have accommodated them by backing off of the powerful messages of Hell and Holiness and the cost of each. Today it is slick marketing, large mortgages, management, and methodology. When the message comes, to return to Zion, it will not be welcomed. Remember! It was organized religion who led the killing of Messiah. They read it, studied it, memorized it, and was sure they were right, and yet they were totally wrong. “You’ve hidden these, father, from those who are proud, and revealed them to little children.” To the scripture experts Jesus said, “You are in error because you don’t know the scriptures.” These guys ate, drank, and slept, the Scriptures, but they were blind to what those scriptures wanted to reveal. They “could not hear the voice of the prophets that were read every Sabbath.” “Unless the Lord builds the house, it is built in vain…”
Starting at the very beginning of the Bible you can see pieces of the puzzle being revealed to humanity: A serpent strikes a heel, the head being crushed, and a man shall leave his father and mother; a seed of corn must fall to ground and die. These are all glimpses of the scroll being unrolled, but it is still a mystery. The scroll has been slowly unrolled as the Father has seen fit to give us Grace.
Have you ever had that little light of “revelation” come on when your reading scriptures and you start shouting, “this is awesome, this is huge, I finally understand, this is going to change everything?” Then there are those other things that remain riddles, and you just can’t dig out the meaning. “Teach them to obey everything I command you…” was one of those for me. I realized that we have not been doing that. It doesn’t say, “Teach them everything I taught you.” It says “Teach them to obey everything I commanded you.” For seventeen hundred years they have missed it.
Now the trouble starts. What are we going to do about it? Call a committee meeting? Assign accountability partners? We’ll just set-up a whole system of accountability and everybody will be obeying this. We just can’t keep our grubby little finger off this supernatural revelation. We want to turn it into a program.
So many of our brothers down through history have had a little piece of the puzzle and have moved the kingdom forward, but for seventeen hundred years they have missed this. “Teach them to obey everything I commanded you.” We have grafted the good teachings of these great men into our lives, and tossed out the parts that weren’t any good. Men like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Finney, Tozer, and others have contributed to the building of the kingdom. A lot of what they gave us was very good, but some wasn’t any good, so we just threw it away and kept the good. They weren’t given full revelation, only as far as the scroll was unrolled. These men lived by the light they had, but the scroll has unrolled a little farther today. A. W. Tozer said many amazing things and threw firebombs at the denominational system, but remained a part of it. Luther admitted that he could not get together enough true believers to have a Bible study. Calvin wanted to continue the theocracy of the Catholics, and Zwingli died with a sword in his hand.
You say, “Where is the revelation and to whom is it given?” It is all around us, in our very midst. I hear it everywhere. The Body of Christ crying out. They don’t want an organization, they want an organism. They are crying out for spiritual food and are offered a sign-up sheet to join some program on spiritual growth. Our children and marriages are on a runaway freight train going downhill and we’re given a pillow and made comfortable because the church doesn’t have any answers. But, even with the pillow and even a good dose of religion to make us sleep, we can’t sleep any more. The scroll is unrolling and now we can see what is necessary, “Teach them to OBEY EVERYTHING that I have COMMANDED you.” A Body is what we want, “joined and knit together,” “contending as one man for the Faith,” “bearing one another’s burdens,” “confessing sins one-to-another,” Life giving, gates-of-hell busting, organic, meeting daily. I hear it everywhere. The true Body does not want something to join or attend. They want a “…hundred, mothers, brothers, sister…” living as one in the Kingdom of God, NOW and FOREVERMORE.
Revelation is unrolling. The Great Commission doesn’t say to go teach people what Jesus taught. It doesn’t say that! “Go and teach them to OBEY ALL that I have commanded.”